Public health

News in brief: Biosimilar prescribing lags in Australia; MSK multimorbidities common; Septic arthritis in Aussie kids

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Australia lags behind Europe on biosimilar prescribing

Prescribing of biosimilars for rheumatoid arthritis has shot ahead in Europe but lags in Australia, according to a 2020 survey by pharmaceutical analysts GlobalData.

It showed that in Europe the number of physicians prescribing biosimilars for at least 75% of their RA patients increased from 48% to 63% between 2018 and 2020.

The rapid uptake was driven by liberal interchangeability policies,  government-mandated quotas for low cost biosimilar prescribing, and the arrival of new biosimilar brands of etanercept, rituximab and infliximab, the report found.

Over the same period biosimilar use in Australia edged up from 20% to 30% of doctors using the products for at least 25% of patients. In both the 2018 and 2020 surveys, 30% of Australian rheumatologists reported preferring biologic reference products to biosimilars. They cited insufficient experience with the new products, higher confidence in the quality of biologic reference products, and a lack of financial incentive to select biosimilars.

Arthritis and back pain the most common chronic illnesses

Arthritis and back pain are the two most common chronic conditions in Australia and are also likely to occur as co-morbidities, according to a new report from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare.

Among the 10 chronic conditions examined in people aged 45 and over in 2017–18 were arthritis, affecting, 34% of people, followed by back problems (26% of people) and mental and behavioural conditions, (22% of people).

The three most commonly co-occurring conditions in people over 45 were back problems with arthritis (12%, 1.2 million people); arthritis with mental and behavioural conditions, (10%, 1 million people) and back problems with mental and behavioural conditions, (8.7%, 800,000 people).

Osteoporosis occurred in 9.2% of people over 45 and was a co-morbidity with arthritis in 5.9% of that age group.

Septic arthritis rates unchanged

Septic arthritis continues to affect about 1 in 10,000 children in Western Australia and leads to long-term bone/joint complications in 5% of patients, a new study shows. A review of 891 hospital admission for septic arthritis in WA between 1990 and 2010 found no change in the incidence, and a disproportionate number of Indigenous Australian children affected, six times than non-Indigenous children. Knees, hips and ankles were most commonly affected joints, and 15% of children had additional bone infection. Males had a higher risk of septic arthritis, and osteomyelitis was diagnosed in 16% of patients, according to results published in Rheumatology and Therapy.

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